The United States opened Copa America play Saturday evening in Philadelphia with a 1-0 win over Paraguay, sending the Stars and Stripes to the quarterfinals.
That preceded Colombia's loss to Costa Rica, meaning the USMNT finished atop Group A. Below, we'll review the tournament's tables and break down the two games.
United States beat Paraguay, 1-0
The United States is headed to the quarterfinals, and they have Brad Guzan to thank for that.
The USMNT goalkeeper was superb, turning away Paraguay shot after shot and leading his country to a 1-0 win. Clint Dempsey's first-half goal was the winner for the United States, which will join Colombia in the quarterfinals out of Group A.
"We knew as long as we kept a clean sheet, we'd be able to move on, and we were able to do that tonight," Guzan said in his post-match comments, per the Fox Soccer live stream.
Guzan's performance was especially crucial for his country in the second half, when the United States was down a man for nearly the entire frame.
"The boys showed a lot of heart today, especially after we got that red card," Dempsey noted, per the Fox Soccer live stream.
The United States took the lead in the 27th minute, as Gyasi Zardes zipped down the left side, raced past two defenders and sent a low cross through the middle of the box. Dempsey was there to greet it, and the crafty veteran made the most of it, spinning his effort past Paraguay's outstretched goalkeeper for the game's opening tally.
Univision Deportes shared the goal:
Univision Deportes @UnivisionSports
#USAvPAR: 27'. Clint Dempsey abre el marcador para #USMNT en @LFFStadium. #UDCentenario #Copa100 #CopaAmerica https://t.co/LLXjrLiQLG2016-6-11 23:36:11
That was Dempsey's 51st international goal, per ESPN Stats & Information, leaving him behind only Landon Donovan (57) for the most goals in USMNT history.
For Zardes, it was a bit of redemption after a somewhat rocky start to this tournament, and Ives Galarcep of SBISoccer.com praised his early effort in the contest:
Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves
One heck of a move by Zardes, and a perfect low cross in to find Dempsey. Zardes has been buzzing around since the start, big assist for him2016-6-11 23:33:55
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated took a moment to praise coach Jurgen Klinsmann, meanwhile:
Grant Wahl @GrantWahl
Give Klinsmann credit—kept the faith in Zardes and started him again. Then Zardes delivers.2016-6-11 23:36:25
The USMNT nearly gave away its one-goal advantage at the half, however, as John Brooks—who was superb for most of the opening 45 minutes—allowed Dario Lezcano free passage down the right flank. Guzan rushed the attacker and took away his angle, however, making a huge save to hold the United States' advantage at 1-0 heading into the half.
Steve Davis of FourFourTwo broke down the first half from the U.S. perspective:
Steve Davis @SteveDavis90
Guzan = hero. Brooks = hero. Dempsey = right place. Cameron, most everyone else = solid. Good half for #USMNT. 45 to go... #Copa100 #USAvPAR2016-6-11 23:52:57
Paraguay wasn't done pressing, however, building attack after attack and peppering the U.S. goal with shots and scoring opportunities. Guzan was a wall, however, namely in the second half after DeAndre Yedlin was handed two yellow cards within a minute of each other and the United States went down a man in the 48th minute.
And the praise came pouring in for Guzan, who put on a rare showing, as Doug McIntyre of ESPN FC noted:
Doug McIntyre @DougMacESPN
This might be the best game I’ve seen Brad Guzan play in a U.S. uniform. #USAvPAR #usmnt2016-6-12 00:45:58
Max Bretos of ESPN concurred:
Maximiliano Bretos @mbretosESPN
One of those special nights for Brad Guzan. #USAvPAR2016-6-12 00:44:40
For the U.S., the performance sent the team to the quarters. For Paraguay, it's a disappointing end to the tournament, albeit in a difficult group. Nonetheless, managing just one goal in three contests wasn't the finest showing for the South American side, which will be disappointed to be eliminated after the group stage.
The United States will have some questions to answer, meanwhile, if it hopes to advance past the quarterfinals. Guzan was the hero Saturday, but the United States defense was shaky at times—though it played well in the second half and Brooks truly shined as the rock of that unit—and it's questionable if the country has the offensive firepower to compete with some of the top teams in this tournament.
Saturday night was a fantastic showing for the country. But the Americans will need to be better to compete with Argentina and Brazil in this tournament.
Costa Rica Beats Colombia, 3-2
Costa Rica pulled off a shock upset of Colombia on Saturday night, 3-2, giving the United States top billing in Group A in the process.
The Costa Ricans started quickly, as Johan Venegas opened the scoring in the second minute with an assist from teammate Celso Borges. Venegas did the heavy lifting, however, taking a step inside at the edge of the box before unfurling an absolute beauty of a shot in one of the better goals of the Copa America thus far.
Just five minutes later, however, Frank Fabra had equalised for Colombia. Fabra did much of the work himself, beating several defenders as he dribbled his way into the box. He lost the ball temporarily, but it found its way back to him, and he was able to smash home for the game-tying tally.
Fabra's night dimmed in the 34th minute, however, as he scored an own goal to restore Costa Rica's lead.
Celso Borges gave the Costa Ricans a 3-1 lead in the 58th minute, beginning the party for the USMNT supporters. Bryan Oviedo was left all alone down the left flank and found Borges with a low cross into the box. Borges took it from there, beating the Colombian 'keeper at the far post.
But Marlos Moreno pulled one back for Colombia in the 73rd minute, as Juan Cuadrado broke down the right side and pulled back a low cross for Moreno, who smashed a heater into the near post. That set up a nervy finish for Costa Rica.
The Costa Ricans held on, however, costing Colombia the top spot in Group A.
The Colombians are still very dangerous and one of the more talented teams in this tournament, of course. But their path to a Copa title may have just gotten much more difficult, as Brazil could be awaiting them in the quarterfinals if they win Group B.
Brazil, of course, knocked Colombia out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals in 2014, 2-1. Now, the Colombians may need to get through Brazil once again at Copa America.
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